The Summer “Time” Dilemma for Divorced Parents
by Alicia Wanek
Parents today know that their entire summer is probably all planned out by mid-spring. Locking in camp dates starts before spring break, so parents start coordinating early to ensure their kids can go with friends and still fit in summer sports, SAT prep courses, and day camps.
That is especially true for divorced parents who, according to the Texas Family Law Code must submit their requests for designated dates of “possession” in April. At that time, the non-custodial parent designates the 30 days during the summer that the children will come to stay with them while the custodial parent gets one weekend during that time. Jim Mueller, managing partner with the law firm of Verner Brumley Mueller Parker, encourages divorced parents to put the kids first as they work together to plan out summers. As the kids get older, it gets even more difficult to coordinate schedules, as the tweens and teens have more commitments and a more robust social life.
He has seen all too often when parents use summer camp as a means of minimizing the time kids spend with an ex-spouse by planning camp sessions during the other parent’s designated dates and it ends up being up to the court to make the final decision. Ideally, it should never need to get to that point. Jim says that in the best-case scenario the specifics about camp are included in the divorce decree, as specific as naming the camp and that the parents will split the cost each summer. “If you can, it would be best if you can truly put the needs of your kids first, above those of yourself and your ex because they’re the ones most affected,” Jim says. He reminds parents that sometimes that means “not everyone gets 100% of what they ask for.”
Licensed professional counselor Gaby Satarino agrees. “The good news is that divorced parents can be role models of healthy relationships for their children.” She recognizes that unresolved emotions about the ex-spouse may linger and lead to resentment but, “At any age, children need their parents to have a respectful relationship.” Parents can help with the transition from one parent to the other by emotionally preparing their children. (See our top 10 list for some suggestions.)
Former Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore once said, “Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom.” Perhaps parents need to keep that in mind when they work with their ex to plan summer vacation for their children.
Top 10 Ways to Help Your Child Emotionally Prepare for Their Summer Visitation with the Non-Custodial Parent
by Gaby Satarino
1.) Be enthusiastic about the time they will spend with the other parent and mean it.
2.) Give your child permission to develop/maintain relationships with the people in your ex’s life.
3.) Communicate with your ex about maintaining consistency in the child’s routines and rules as much as possible.
4.) Be flexible i.e., if your teen forgets to call you because she/he is having fun.
5.) Be self-empowered; avoid statements which may lead to the child feeling guilty about “leaving you.”
6.) Maintain open communication with your tween/teen during their visit without prying for detailed information.
7.) Give your child a sense of control by allowing them to make choices within set parameters.
8.) Encourage your child to express their feelings without judgment.
9.) Ask for their input and, if needed, help your child process any emotions about the transition.
10.) Normalize feelings of missing each other.